Fly fishing diaries | Fly Fishing 101... again

No, I didn't repeat the Fly Fishing 101 class because I failed it the first time (just in case you were wondering). No, we figured I needed all the tutorials I could get (especially since this class is free from a lot of fly shops). This time the class was taught by the Orvis folks in Bellevue. We had two teachers with very different teaching styles, and students with wildly different levels of experience (which I find to be very helpful, if you're the learn by watching type). 

Most of the class was a refresher of what I learned at Reds, but I also learned a couple of new techniques. Maybe I missed these the first time around. Or maybe the different teaching styles made them sink in this time around.

First off, they had us do one complete cast: back, forward, ending with our rod tip right down to the grass. Then do it again. And again. Just those three movements. Didn't really explain why, though. (I learned that in FF-102).

As we practiced our casting, one of their long-time customers (who was helping out with the class) walked around to each of us, and gave us pointers. He watched me cast, then stood right behind me and put his hand over mine, and went through the cast again. Doing this, I could feel the movement, the abrupt stops at the correct 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions. But the best tip was this:  he told me to keep my casting hand where I could see it.  If I can't see my hand on the back cast, my rod tip is going too far back. One more thing to think about... but figuring out all the bits and pieces that make up the cast is how you (I) learn to do it right. This was a great tip.

Most fun of all, though was getting to "fish" for big velcro-covered cardboard fish, using "flies" of folded-over bits of velcro tape attached to the end of our leaders. I'd always wondered whether it would be hard to learn how to cast my line into a very specific place on a river, and stressed about it, actually. But I didn't expect that having a target to aim for would make this easier. I found myself  relaxing into a rhythm of casting and stripping line to try and get my "fish" out to the target, and even though I never hooked the fish, it was sure fun to try.


Sharing a cat bed

One cat bed with high sides, made from cozy fleece. The perfect location: on the sofa. One tiny problem: two cats. We actually thought they could take turns using it. Silly humans. In the end, the cats figured out the best way to share. James simply never leaves. As long as we're close enough to scratch her under the chin,  rub her tummy when invited, this cat is in heaven.


Neighborhood walk: green on green

I have a pretty cool neighborhood. It's not your typical neighborhood, with closely packed houses and cul-de-sacs and kids on bikes. Instead, the people who live here have small farms with horses and cows, llamas, and even some exotic birds (I can hear the peacocks from my place). On both sides of our place live bonafide master gardeners, which is great for inspiration.

Whenever I don't feel like straying too far from home, I take my walk on private road that leads to my farmhouse. It's beautiful all year, but especially right now, on the cusp between spring and summer. The road is lined with firs and maples and alders, volunteer rhododendrons in full bloom, hazelnut bushes and vine maples with bright new growth.

But it's the greenery close to the ground that caught my eye today. The bright green, newly opened leaves of the vine maple. The ferns with their curled new growth, just turning from white to pale green. The salmonberries in every stage of growth, bright rose blooms and caps in pale green and berries turning to ripe salmon pink. The hazelnut shrubs, with scattered nuts from last year's crop underneath. Tiny fragile flower stalks that I can't identify, but they're beautiful and are everywhere. The bushy spirea, with last year's dried flower stalks.

Today my ten minute walk today turned into an hour. An hour of loving the sun and blue skies, the ducks setting up housekeeping on the ponds, hawks soaring, the green hedgerows.



Fly fishing diaries | Orvis waders

We spent a fun couple of hours at the Orvis store today, and walked out with waders. Awesome! Actually, Dave walked out with waders. Mine are on order, and I sure hope they fit me. I don't fit into the size range of any of the waders, especially the foot/shoe sizes. I'm a bit worried about that, actually. I already have my wading boots, which I love and which fit perfectly (just a bit oversized to make room for my neoprene booties or wader feet).

They were just finishing up a Fly Fishing 101 class when we got there, so while we waited for Jason to help us with waders, we talked about whether we should do another round of classes. Dave's good at this already, but I figure the more help (from different teachers) the better off I'll be. So we decided to sign up for both FF-101 and FF-102. The first class is next Sunday; FF-102 is June 16 at a private lake in North Bend, where we'll get to cast our lines into the water and try to catch a fish. How cool is that?


April reads

I'm late compiling the books I loved from April, but I have a good excuse: I just got back yesterday from ten days spent exploring the middle of Idaho... the wilderness areas, the fly fishing rivers and streams, the resort towns of McCall and Ketchum and Hailey. Along the way we saw some amazing things, and I gave my new Nikon a good workout. More on the Idaho scenery later... here are the books that captured my interest in April.

Ashley Gartland | Dishing Up Oregon.  A wonderful cookbook with recipes that celebrate farm-to-table flavors. I have to take it back tomorrow, but will check it out again. It's been really fun to read.

Hank Phillippi Ryan | Prime Time. It's the first in a series with an investigative reporter as the main character, written by the same (for a Boston TV station). My journalism degree is in print media, so the TV side is a bit foreign to me. But the character is tough and strong and fun, and I'm enjoying the book.

Julie Fanselow | Off the Beaten Path: Idaho. This one went along on our road trip through Idaho, and it was interesting to read up on the history of the places we saw.

Nikon D3200: From Snapshots to Great Shots | I'm biding my time until the book for my own camera, the D5200, comes out in May.

Michael Freeman | The Photographer's Vision and
Brenda Tharp | Extraordinary Everyday Photography
It's always interesting to see what tips my favorite photography authors have in their books, and it's a great place to get composition ideas to try out.

Jack Nisbet | The Mapmaker's Eye. The journeys of David Thompson, the explorer who mapped the Columbia Plateau, and charted the way for Lewis and Clark. We've explored this region over the past three decades, and this gives a different perspective on a part of the Northwest we love.

Kate Carlisle | a cute, sometimes silly, series of books with a master bookbinder as heroine. Set in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities, I couldn't resist these books as a change from the thrillers and mysteries I usually read.

Maran Illustrated Yoga | Yoga is something I've wanted to try on for size, and this book is helping me get started. It's surprising (to me) how many of the positions are exactly the ones we used to warm up for ballet class, before a riding lesson or clinic, or in various exercise and aerobics classes I took when I was younger and in much better shape! Hopefully this will lead me back on the path to fitness again.

Fly fishing diaries | Pflueger spools

Since my antique Pflueger fly reel is the one I'll be fishing with while I learn, I thought it would be fun to learn more about it. With a little digging, I found a series of documents on the Fly Anglers Online website, documents that listed my model of reel and how it changed during its lifetime. My version of the reel was made for two years, starting in 1959, and came in two spool widths. I have the Model 1494; Dave has the wider 1494 1/2.

The reel belonged to my father-in-law, but we never found a 5- or 6-wt rod to go with it. It was carefully packed away in the original box, along with the receipt (he paid $9.95). It was definitely used, and needed some TLC... cleaning and de-gunking and some new lube, and it works perfectly now. It's old and a bit beat up, but I rather like the thought of fishing with a 54-year-old fly reel.

It just has one negative: it has only one spool. When we did our fly fishing classes at Red's, we both bought new Rio floating line. But since we're going to try beach fishing for sea-run cutthroat, I need a second spool so I can have an intermediate line. Dave has two spools, one for floating and one for sinking line, but he'd also like to have a third spool for intermediate line.

So I went to my go-to place for finding just about anything: eBay. And we found the perfect auction, tailor-made just for us: three new, unused spools, two for the 1494 and one for the 1494 1/2. It was fate, I think.

For more on my fly fishing journey, just click on the tab under the header.


Craters of the Moon

We're still on Day 3 of our road trip. We covered a lot of ground today, from Idaho Falls to Ketchum, with stops for geocaching and antique shops and photography, plus a few hours exploring Craters of the Moon national monument.

Drive far enough north of the interstate, and you start to find small towns and valleys and farmland, with a stunning backdrop: the mountain ranges of Central Idaho. I'm sure my jaw dropped when we crested what I thought was a small hill, and saw this huge drop into another wide valley, with a river winding its way through. On the other side of the valley, we headed east toward Craters of the Moon, passing world-famous Silver Creek, which many consider to be the ultimate test of a fly fisherman.

Idaho's Craters of the Moon is a remote national monument that you can read more about here. There's a tour route you can drive, with short walks and hikes along the way that explain the landscape and geology. The first stop was probably the best for seeing different types of lava up close and personal. I love the rich blue colors in this one.

Dave wanted to climb to the top of this cinder cone; I declined and stayed down below, taking photographs. There isn't a trail: you just head for the top. But you can see the wide disturbed streak that shows the most direct route. That itty-bitty white dot near the top was Dave's pale yellow shirt.

On the way out of the park, we took the Pilot four-wheeling on an abandoned dirt road that wound along the hillside just above a huge most-sunken lava tube. You can see it snaking through this photograph; the cracks show where it broke above the surface. (I'm sure there's a more accurate description; I'm just explaining how it looks to the casual eye.)

Our only reason for taking this road was to grab a geocache. But once we dropped down from the main road, we spotted the lava tube. You couldn't see it at all from the main road; it just blended in with the rest of the landscape. And we got another bonus: the hillside along the dirt road was covered in wildflowers. I think the harsh ground they grow in makes them even more beautiful. Nature has a will to survive that astounds me.

Shoshone Falls

Day 3 of our road trip through Central Idaho.

We spent the night in Twin Falls, and as we were headed north, noticed the waterfall symbol on the map. Since we had to stop and grab a geocache nearby, and since the waterfall was just a few miles away, we decided to check it out.

For anyone who hasn't been to Twin Falls, or has just driven past on the freeway, you may not have noticed that the Snake River flows immediately north of town. It's the reason the town stopped where it did, actually. The Snake has carved a deep gorge here, spanned by only a few bridges, with a few overlooks where you can walk to the edge and look down.

Shoshone Falls is 212 ft high, which is 45 ft higher than Niagara Falls. And it flows in several cascades over a 1000 ft wide rim. We were lucky to see it in spring when the water was still pretty high, but I'd like to see it when water is flowing over the entire rim.

We stopped at the upper overlook, and debated over spending the 3 bucks to drive down to the lower viewpoint. A guy who'd just jogged up the steep road overheard us, and said the view was so much better from down below, and worth every penny. So we went, and were really glad we did. This is a truly spectacular waterfall.


Historic Caldwell train depot

Day two of our road trip through Idaho, and we're speeding through the southern part of the state. Our trip is a combination of geocaching (working on the Idaho county challenge) and exploring (fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking locations). We stopped to photograph this gorgeous restored train station in Caldwell, Idaho. The structure was built in 1906 and abandoned in the 1980s, along with seven other stations in Idaho. This one was lucky: a foundation was established to restore the building, and today it's spectacular. It still stands beside railroad tracks, but hasn't been used as intended since 1984.

Trains are really Dave's thing, but architecture is mine. So we always search out old railroad buildings and stations as we travel, hoping to find a gem. I think this one qualifies, don't you?


Fly fishing diaries | The Yakima Canyon

Learning to fly fish has been on my list for years now, not just for myself, but also as a shared hobby with my hubby, and a way to spend more of our time in the wild. So I needed to be patient, and wait until the time was right for both of us. Retirement did the trick. Now we're free to plan trips, and fish whenever the mood strikes us.

My first taste of fly fishing came when a Sage rep (who was friends with a co-worker) offered to teach fly casting to a small group of employees. Anyone interested put their name in a hat, and they drew 10 names. I was one of the lucky ones, and got to spend a workday afternoon at a nearby park, learning the basics of fly casting using high-end Sage gear. My department's new VP was also chosen, and it was a good way to get better acquainted.

I really enjoyed the class, and in the back of my mind always was learning more someday. Mountain biking, then a bright red MX-5 roadster and lots of road trips took most of our free time. Those road trips took us to a lot of prime fly fishing locations in the Northwest, which kept the wish alive.

Fast-forward more than a decade to today. In February, Dave spotted a Groupon for half-price fly fishing classes at Red's, the resort in the heart of the Yakima Canyon. Perfect! We signed up, and today we headed over the pass for a weekend in Ellensburg.

In the meantime I'd acquired an antique Fenwick fly rod and cleaned up my father-in-law's even older fly reel, made a plaid flannel rock sock for the rod, and Dave made me a rod tube. The day before our classes we spent time in the shop talking about gear, and had them load up modern fly line on both our reels.

Saturday was the big day, an entire day learning the basics. I had a blast! Mike, our instructor, was a teacher before retiring, now he gets to spend his days teaching people about his lifelong passion. Red's provided all the gear, including Sage and Redington rods and reels, even the very high-end Sage One (which I loved, but they said it was for experienced fishermen like Dave). Sigh.

Over the course of the day, we learned several different types of casts, spent hours casting out on the grass near the river, learned the basic knots, and even screened bugs from the river to learn about the insects that fish eat. Our class had experienced people like Dave, people taking their second and third round of classes, and beginners like me. One young couple was learning fly fishing because his new job is taking him to Montana for business travel, and he figured that was a perfect excuse to learn... there are few places better for fly fishing than Montana. And his wife is learning, too, which I though was very cool.

Near the end of the day, they videotaped each of us casting, with a one-on-one critique. Then we got to toss a line into the river.

By the end of the day I was hooked. (Sorry about all the puns; I never realized how many of our common sayings are directly related to fishing!)

We decided to buy wading boots and neoprene wading socks, and spend the summer fishing from shore while I practice my casting and boost my comfort level. Then we'll buy waders and do more river fishing, then think about lake fishing and float tubes. Lots to learn and decide, and I think we'll have a lot of fun doing it!

Here's hoping that today is the first step on a journey that will last a lifetime.


The Tav

We've been coming to Ellensburg a lot in the past decade, ever since our good friends moved there in 2002. They hadn't intended to retire there, had other plans. But well, things happen, and before you know it, you take a different path. They grabbed at the chance to leave the city and try a small town, fell in love with the slower pace and friendly people, and never looked back.

Linda introduced us to The Tav. It's a typical bar in a typical small college town, and has been a student hang-out for decades. My favorite part of the place is the exposed brick wall, carved from floor to ceiling with people's names. Linda's name is here, carved when she was a student at Central, and when it's free, we sit in "her" booth. Dark wood, long bar and back bar, great food...  it's one of our favorite places to hang out.

Today we sat outside on the patio, which is surrounded by those same brick walls, carved with names of the folks who've spent time here over the years, leaving their mark on the place.

 Note that it's OK to carve your name on the brick, but you'd better not touch the wood tables!


Fly fishing diaries | How it all started

At the top of my retirement list (the one not in alphabetical order) was learning how to fly fish. I'm not sure why this ended up on the list, but a few years back, while on a road trip through Montana, the idea just kind of got stuck in my head.

My husband was a fly fisherman when we met, and we spent many fun hours at a river or lake, me sitting on the bank with a book while he fished. I loved the beautiful rhythm of fly fishing, but didn't really have any desire to learn. I was content to watch. When we moved to eastern Washington the fishing spots changed to the rivers in the Cascades near White Pass, or the warm lakes near Vantage, or bass fishing on the Columbia. But when we moved back to the west (wet) side, he hung up his rod.

We've always been backroads travelers, keen to take the county roads instead of the highways, the highways instead of the interstates. When we bought our little red roadster in 2005, the need to find the best twisty roads possible led us to explore the Northwest all over again, and every place we went, we started to notice all the potential fly fishing streams and the placid lakes just made for float tubes. Once in a while, we'd stop in at a fly shop, just for fun. But I remained a fly fishing wannabe, until we finally made the decision to retire. And once all those days opened up, the idea of fly fishing really took root.

This weekend it starts:  we're going to Red's in the Yakima Canyon for a pair of fly fishing classes. I can hardly wait!

Dave fishing for sea-run cuththroat
on the beach at Three Tree Point


A year ago

A year ago, I woke up at my usual time of 4:30, and smiled. It was the first day of the rest of my life... literally. The first day free from my job, career, work. The first day where all the hours were mine to spend however I wanted. It was wonderful.

This morning I woke up at 6:30, looked outside at the bright sunshine and the frost on the grass, and smiled. Today I'm taking my new camera out for a drive, to capture the brilliant blue skies and orchard trees in bloom, Mt. Rainier looming over the plateau, the foothills dusted with fresh snow, and whatever else I find along the way.

It will be a beautiful day.